The debate to end sub-minimum wages and the use of segregated sheltered workshop has come to Illinois as the Senate Human Services Committee held a hearing on the state’s implementation of the Employment First Act.

Robin Jones, Co-Chair of the Economic & Employment Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities Task Force, gave the committee an update on the work of the Task Force and the State’s work on Employment First. She also reported that Charlie Weikel has been appointed at the Governor’s Employment First Liasion to the Task Force.

Equip for Equality attorney’s Barry Taylor and Cheryl Jansen reviewed Equip’s Employment First Blueprint. Barry talked about employment being a “civil rights” issue for individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities (IDD). Cheryl talked about the problems with coordinating employment supports between the Division of Rehabilitation Services and the Division of Developmental Disabilities as well as significant rate problems. Equip recommends revising the rate structure of supported employment to more adequately support individuals and incentivize integrated employment and restoring funding for extended supported employments beyond 18 months.  Cheryl also said that the state needs to review its overuse of segregated settings for state use contracts.

Other recommendations on the use of sheltered settings included:

  • Amend regulations and policies for the creation of ISPs to require exploration of employment and justification for not pursuing integrated employment before day training or sheltered workshops are offered.
  • Amend regulations and waiver application to eliminate the presumptive eligibility for day training.
  • Provide training and technical assistance to service providers on how to create ISPs and effectively inform people with disabilities of the option to pursue integrated employment.
  • Revise guidance and training to service providers on how to conduct an ISP that results in a “meaningful day” for individuals.
  • Provide training and technical assistance for sheltered workshops on the shift to integrated settings, including fiscal strategies.

Regarding the Illinois Dept. of Central Management Services, the following recommendation are:

  • Amend the Business Enterprise for Minorities, Females and Persons with Disabilities Act and regulations to exclude sheltered workshops as disability owned businesses and increase the goal of contracts awarded to businesses owned by persons with disabilities to seven percent.
  • Conduct additional outreach to people with disabilities to increase the number of certified disability-owned businesses.
  • Amend the provisions of the Illinois Procurement Code relating to the State Use Program to require sheltered workshops to offer competitive employment and pay minimum wage.
  • Amend contracts with State Use vendors to require that workers are regularly informed about the choice and opportunity to work in integrated settings.
  • Amend the provisions of the Illinois Procurement Code relating to the State Use Program to require the State Use Committee to include more scrutiny of state contracts with vendors, including using benchmarks of how many people are participating in community, integrated employment.

A full list of recommendations can be found on page 48 of the Illinois Employment First Blueprint.

Rene Luna from Access Living talked about phasing out subminimum wages which only lead to poverty for individuals with disabilities and how frustrated people with disabilities are with the employment system in Illinois.

Greg Bassi, DHS General Counsel and now Dept. of Human Services (DHS) Chief of Staff, shared that the Rauner Administration fully supports the implementation of Employment First and its principles. He said there is significant movement within DHS and the other state agencies to foster Employment First. The challenge facing the Administration is the implementation because we want and need to implement Employment First in a concrete and meaningful way.

It was an excellent hearing which can be viewed in full at Senate Human Services Committee Hearing on Employment First.

Employment First needs to implemented at every level from the school system to adult services. It is no longer acceptable that individuals with disabilities are denied the right to integrated employment in the community due to current state funding and practices. Our employment system needs structural reform at every level to ensure a full life in the community for everyone.

Tony & Kim, Cheryl, Director Romano and Barry Taylor



Senate Committee Checks In On Employment First Act

ebruary 23rd, 2016 — As social service agencies are struggling to continue during the state budget impasse, there are questions about a plan to help those with disabilities.

The Illinois Employment First Act was signed by Governor Pat Quinn in 2013. The goal, to get those with disabilities competitive employment.

The co-chair of the task force says progress has been delayed because of the change in administrations and turnover.

She said in order to get the job done, lawmakers will have to be willing to make changes and investments.

“As things come forward to you for some of these things are going to require legislative changes. Some of the changes in the wavers and things of that nature. These are critical critical issues in us trying to re-balance how we’re spending our dollars,” said Robin Jones, Co-Chair, Illinois Task Force on Employment Economic Opportunity for Persons with Disabilities.

Lawmakers said they wanted to check in to see how they could make the process better for the implementation of the law.

tony signature
Tony Paulauski
Executive Director
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423
815-464-1832 (OFFICE)
815-464-1832 (CELL)